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Commentary: The combat effective couch commando

“I forgot how to do homework. My back is killing me. I need to get off of this old couch.”

“Then you need to take care of that,” my wife recently told me over the phone from Missouri. “There’s no one there besides you to see it and point that out.”

“You’d think for a writer that I’d have telework down,” I replied. “I need to use a desk and a good chair. I’m too old to get by long with poor posture.”

Alright. In perspective, my aches and pains are small potatoes in this terrible pandemic. Hardship and suffering are rampant. And I was not battling the virus or at any significant risk, unlike our courageous health care workers and essential services workers. I was working from home, writing an article about how U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center are teleworking.

As it turns out, that and my hurt back all got me thinking about ergonomics.

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Commentary: Season’s hazards lie in wait

A melted, blackened, multi-plug surge extension is an excellent example of the unintentional situations going on in our offices and homes regarding the fall and winter safety mindset – or not-mindset – to show how overlooked hazards arrive with the seasons.

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Commentary: Anticipate this to help, for any disaster

Disasters don’t plan ahead. You can. The official logo for National Preparedness Month 2017. (Photo illustration by Ready.gov.)

Why check your emergency information? September is National Preparedness Month. Americans know natural disasters, if not from personal experiences, then through others’. Anticipating a disaster helps ensure our preparedness.

I’ll share my first memory, of Tropical Storm Carrie in 1972. I was four. I don’t recall much except that we had a gas stove and my mom popped corn in the dark while the thunder boomed outside. (I realize that this is small in comparison to disasters others faced, but it was pretty scary. So it must be for the kids in Houston.)

As Hurricane Harvey reminds us, while our memories fade, events may spring unrealized, anywhere and anytime. All severe weather can cause significant damage and risk of life. The need for proper emergency planning is critical in response. So if you’re with me, this might be our fair warning to recheck our records and plans for ourselves, family and friends.

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Training center, experts urge safety in path of solar eclipse

(Image: The Minuteman statue outside Patriot Hall at the Air National Guard’s I.G. Brown Training and Education Center in East Tennessee dons a pair of eclipse glasses, June 22, 2017, to emphasize the need for safe viewing of the coming solar eclipse.)

The I.G. Brown Training and Education Center staff, as well as students lucky enough to be assigned here Monday, August 21, will be seated directly in the path of totality during the North American Eclipse.

McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in East Tennessee borders both cities inside the area where the moon completely blocks light from the sun. Given good weather, experts predict those in Louisville, Tenn., should expect to see the partial phase beginning at 1:04 PM (EDT) and up to total blackout at 2:33 PM, lasting for 1 minute and 26 seconds. Those in Alcoa, Tenn. will see 1 minute 24 seconds of totality.

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Commentary: ‘Hang on’ through summer

A friend of my father whom I have known since I was a child, I’ll call him “M” here, gave me my first safety lesson when I was about 10 years old.

I was standing short and skinny, in 1978, above a Class III river section with a helmet, a life jacket, and a big, black truck tire inner tube, and he said, jokingly, “Hang on, Kid.”

It was my first run-in with danger, so I took this best friend of my father’s words very seriously.

“If you fall off, remember, keep your feet up, don’t drag them on the rocks, or you could get them caught in a crevasse and be pulled under,” he said. “You will be fine.”

Looking downstream, a gauntlet of waves, eddies and irregular rocks awaited me. Some water-shrouded boulders seemed bigger than our house, but I was determined to go if M assured me I would be fine.

After all, M knew the risks. He was an accomplished white water kayaker.

Back before there was anything labeled an extreme sport, I remember traveling with M as he and my father and others I now call my “second dads” challenged some of the most dangerous rapids in the Adirondack region.

My father and M once broke a wood strip canoe clean in half on a particularly bad rapid but managed to float to shore wearing their helmets and life jackets. Even their thick, heavy fiberglass kayaks were battle-scarred from past rapids and challenging situations.

Although I did not think of it then, the fact that none of them ever got injured in the extreme risks they took I can now attribute to their respect for safety.

When that group first decided to try white water, they took courses through their local YMCA in Schenectady where they learned the basics. They practiced screw rolling their kayaks in a swimming pool until it became second nature, and when they were ready they didn’t go to the biggest rapid around and put in. They started small and developed their skill and confidence, as well as gained respect for the river and its dangers.

At their pinnacle, I stood in awe, watching from the river bank when they twisted and turned in the foam and boiling eddies of an extremely difficult Class V section. It had taken summers and many weekend trips to manage that moment of risk and walk away, with only great stories.

I feel so very lucky to have had their example growing up – they respected the river and the environment and the communities that supported them, and they respected risk.

But just this week, I learned yet another lesson from my second dads that no matter what you have done in your past, and no matter what odds you beat, risk is always present.

At a place he had been a hundred times – on a paved bike path near his home on the Mohawk River – where kids bike and where he and his friends go to their weekly canoe club meetings, M was biking with his girlfriend when she went over the river bank and suffered a fatal injury. It happened that quickly, my father told me.

There was no sign of danger; they were out for a casual summer bicycle ride. They were wearing helmets, their bikes were in good condition and the weather was good.

My family’s and friends’ thoughts are with M and his girlfriend’s family. Of course, he is as injured emotionally as if he had crashed himself.

But I think that M would like that I shared his story, with the summer of 2013 ahead of us, and to ask you to always respect safety in all your activities, as he taught me; no matter if you are taking on your first Class V river section or just going out for a lazy bike ride.

Hang on, M.